Food – why is it so tempting?

Spring is in full bloom and the warmest days are approaching fast. Are you one of the many people who would like to lose a bit of weight before the weather makes you show more skin that usually? You probably already have a diet planned, or a routine to get healthier ¬– however, it’s likely that there are still some eating habits which you find difficult to get rid of. Below, you’ll find a few of the reasons for why food is so tempting to you.

Why is it hard to overcome the food seduction?

The human brain is a complex structure that has been evolving over thousands of years. Compared to the industrial developments of the past two centuries, however, our brain has not changed a whole lot.  

There is a specific part of the brain that is called the reward centre. Its main purpose is to support behaviour that is beneficial for survival and prosperity by giving us pleasure and making us feel good. 
Whenever we do something that is beneficial for our survival, our brain produces the feeling of pleasure to make sure that we repeat the beneficial action and thus behave in a way that ensures our survival.  

The part of the human brain that is responsible for this has developed thousands of years ago at a very early stage of humankind. Food was scarce and starvation was a substantial threat to the human race. To make sure that any human being living in this period of time had a realistic chance of survival, nature gave humanity a connection between food and pleasure.  

Our brain is not able to detect the density of all existing kinds of nutrients in food while we eat it. However, our brain is wired to use three ingredients as indirect indicators for the nutritious content of the food we ingest – and, in return, sensing them on our pallet is rewarded with pleasure. These three specific ingredients are: salt, fat and sugar.  

Sugar, salt and fat

In nature the occurrence of these three ingredients is fairly scarce. Even fruit that are sweet only contain a moderate sugar content compared to a candy bar or a piece of cake. Only few sources of food contain high levels of salt, such as seaweed. No to mention, even the fat content in avocados – the fruit that is also called “jungle butter” – is no more than approximately 22% (as compared to butter from cow’s milk, which contains, on average, 80% fat, or refined vegetable oils that contain up to 100% pure fat).

Whenever one of our thousands-years-old ancestors would eat food that contained nutrients necessary for the body, alongside with low amounts of salt, fat or sugar, the reward centre in the brain would be activated and signal the feeling of pleasure and happiness to the body. This would happen to make sure our ancestor kept on eating – and came back to this food the next time it was available.  

Developed a long time ago, this mechanism is still the same – and still working on us, even today. In fact, it is the same mechanism that is triggered when drugs, such as cocaine, are consumed: they activate the reward centre of our brain. 

During the past two centuries, humans have perfected industrial skills and, as of today, we can easily find refined versions of pure sugar (sugar cubes or syrup), pure fats (vegetable oils, butter or lard) and salt (common table salt). We have started manufacturing and consuming food products with high contents of sugar, fat and salt, while our brain is still hotwired for an environment where such food is scarce.


Food products ready to ensnare you

Nowadays, we are continuously exposed to food products that intensely trigger our reward centre, because they contain unnaturally high amounts of fat, salt or sugar.  

Particularly stimulating to our brain are products that contain combinations of high concentrations of salt, sugar and fat at the same time. Some combinations are so tempting that once we start eating, it is hard to stop. Some examples for especially reward-centre-triggering foods are:

Chocolate (fat & sugar)
Potato chips (fat & salt & sugar)
Ketchup and other industrially manufactured sauces (sugar & salt), especially tempting when combined with a fatty meat patty on a burger-bun (sugar & salt & fat)
French fries with ketchup (salt, fat, sugar)
Roasted, salted nuts (fat & salt)
Roasted, salted nuts glazed with chocolate (salt & fat & sugar)
Cakes and biscuits (salt & fat & sugar)
Ice cream (fat & sugar)

As a result of our brain structure, which is meant to save us from starvation, it is easy to be tricked into consuming foods that give pleasure instead of providing good nutrition.  

What can you do to break the call of food? 

Do not let yourself get ravenously hungry and develop cravings. This will make your brain direct you straight to the foods that the reward centre deems best for survival (high in fat, salt and sugar). Instead, make sure you have snacks that keep your blood sugar levels balanced and stable such as the Natural Balance Soup or the Natural Balance Shake
Eat natural foods that are not highly processed and enriched with salt, fat or sugar.
Do not keep pleasure-trap foods that are high in salt, fat or sugar at home.  
Be aware that salt, fat and sugar added to food can trigger your reward centre. Think about these three elements the next time you go food shopping – it will help you make better choices when getting your groceries.


But, most importantly, do not succumb to the thought that “you will only have one”. As you have learned from the article above, your brain will make you want to have more. 



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